Naivety, misguided hopes, and a bit of blind optimism
Thinking back to the first few weeks after I found out I was pregnant with my eldest, I can remember those first ideas of what I thought pregnancy, childbirth (and life with a newborn, for that matter) would be like for me.
I’d spend the next 8 months floating around in stylish yet comfortable maternity wear, with fabulous hair and breasts of a Grecian goddess.
Then, on my due date, the contractions would start. And whilst I would bravely breathe through them for a few hours, my partner would eventually take me in to hospital where I would go straight through to the delivery suite, ease into the birthing pool and birth my baby au naturelle, whilst the ‘gentle birth music’ playlist I’d complied played out on the iPod.
Clearly I was
a total moron deluded.
I won’t elaborate too much on the disillusionment regarding what I thought pregnancy would be like vs what it actually was like, although you can read all about that here if it tickles your fancy.
However, overall, the biggest shock was what happened when it actually came down to the whole getting-the-baby-out-of-my-body shebang.
And as is so often the case, my first experience of labour and birth was a bit of a shitshow tbh. (Not literally I hasten to add, I didn’t get to the pushing bit, so I was spared the whole pooping whilst you produce debacle.)
I ended up having an emergency c-section after 28 hours of labour. Ultimately, three kids and three sections on, I would say my experiences have generally been positive. Nonetheless, there are a few things I would have rather known beforehand.
Here’s the lowdown on the truth about c-sections, based on my experiences, which you might not already know about:
First off, no-one tells you in your pre-preggo days how unlikely it is that you won’t actually have your baby on your due date, or in fact, anywhere near close to it.
This could mean that you go into labour earlier than expected, bringing on shock, panic and the general chaos of unpreparedness only these Mums can really know.
It could also mean that, your baby might decide to sit tight well into week 42 (despite literally weeks of Braxton Hicks contractions indicating the contrary, in my case, which was fun) at which point your midwife will book you in for an induction to help things along a bit.
What they won’t freely offer up is the fact that induced labour is twice as likely to end up as a c-section delivery than spontaneous labour. If you’re going in for an induction, there’s pretty much a 1 in 4 chance that you’ll end up having one.
I’m not telling you this to shit you up. I’m telling you so that you can adjust your expectations accordingly. If I’d known there was a 24% chance I’d need a section first time around I might not have been so unprepared for it, and might have found it a bit less traumatic at the time.
2.) Emergency c-section weirdness
There is a A LOT of weird stuff that transpires when you have an emergency section. Most of which is based around the fact that this wasn’t the planned outcome.
You are basically a vessel:
Owing to the ’emergency’ factor, it will very suddenly become an exercise in how to safely remove the baby safely from your body.
During the short journey from the labour ward to the operating table it will stop being about you and start being about getting the baby out of you. There will be a lot of medical professionals talking about what they’re about to do whilst you lie on the gurney with your fouf out wondering whether they realise you can still hear them.
You will lose your last shred of dignity:
Before I hear you decry how mortifying it can be when you poop on the midwife during natural labour, let me tell you this: NOTHING can compare with lying on an operating table, heavily pregnant and naked from the tits down with a big blue sheet hiding your face, whilst a dozen doctors and nurses stand over your vagina discussing how they’ll have to shave you before they can start prepping for the op. NOTHING.
You might have to speak up a bit:
They’ll be so busy in the business of retrieving this baby they might not be very tuned in to hearing the baby’s vessel behind the blue sheet. During my emergency section I started feeling really sick due to the anaesthetic. I had to call out three times before my husband yelled “SHE’S GOING TO PUKE” loudly enough for them to hand him a sick bowl that I had to vomm into whilst immobilised from the chest down before the anaesthetist could help me. Good times.
3.) Planned Section Weirdness
As a consequence of my first birth, my second and third child were both also born by section, but these two were planned. The experience couldn’t be more different.
Unlike with the emergency c-section urgency, planned sections are a rather sedate affair. You rock up on the day (which in itself is a weird thing, isn’t it? Waking up and thinking “Oh yeah, I’m off to produce a human at 9.30 this morning”. Mental.)
Obvs there is no labour beforehand, so you rock up the hospital relatively fresh-faced and ready for action. When it’s time, you get into your gown and they wheel you into the OR to introduce you to the team.
Your anaesthetist immediately becomes your new best friend:
He or she talks you through what they’re going to do and will basically stay with you throughout the op. If you start feeling a bit weird or sick they can just pop a bit more of whatever drugs they’ve got to stop it and you’re good within a minute or so.
Anaesthetists are basically c-section shamans, healing all woes your side of the blue sheet. Amazing!
They might pop the radio on:
Thanks to the surgical team and Heart FM, my son was born to Bon Jovi’s “Living on a Prayer”, followed my MC Hammer’s “Can’t Touch This”.
The first hour after birth is a bit weird:
After the birth they will weigh the baby and clear off most of the gunk with a towel before passing them to you. You’ll then have about 30 minutes skin to skin contact at a really weird high up angle whilst the surgical team get the placenta out, before they stitch you up.
Suddenly, here is the little human you’ve been growing inside yourself for past 39 weeks, plonked on your chest for a bit. You’re all wired up to various drips and heart monitor thingies so it’s a bit tricky to hold your baby in a natural way. After they’ve delivered the placenta they’ll send bubba off with your partner to wait for you whilst they stitch you up.
This is an ultra weird 30 minute window where it’s just you and the remaining surgical team. The baby is off in another room and you’re just waiting for them to finish off putting you back together so that you can join them.
After my youngest daughter was born I was lying there in post-birth limbo waiting for them to finish stitching me up. Still separated from two thirds of my body courtesy of the blue sheet.
I was chatting to the nurses who were clearing up all the equipment in a scene reminiscent of the last customer chatting with bar staff after time is called at the bar, finishing off their pint whilst the barman cleans glasses and sweeps the floor.
The nurses were saying “Wow, you look so fresh-faced. It’s hard to believe you’ve just had a baby.” and I found myself replying, “Well that’s because you lot have pretty much just had her for me.”
It’s all very polite and stuff, but it’s a good job it doesn’t go on for long because you just want to be with that baby they’ve just pulled out of you so you can really meet them properly.
4.) Post Op
After you’ve been stitched up and wheeled out you can rejoin bubba and your partner. If the medical team don’t do it for you (as was the case with my #3) get your partner to help you try to feed the baby by propping you up and handing you the baby for some skin to skin bonding time.
(You’ll still be all hooked up to stuff at first which is a giant pain in the arse, but they should get rid of most of it after an hour or so).
It’ll take you a few hours before you get much movement back, so you’ll keep slipping down a bit and you might not be able to get into quite the right position for a while. Make do with pillows propping you up where you need it until you can manoeuvre yourself a bit better.
Obviously you’re going to be very sore for a couple of days. If it feels unmanageable speak to a ward nurse about it, they can give you morphine if you’re really struggling, although it might delay you getting discharged by a few hours if you take any on the day you’re due to leave.
Rummaging about inside your guts, the doctors will have moved everything about during the surgery, and after you’re all stitched up, chances are there will be little pockets of trapped air in your tummy which can be a bit painful. Ask a nurse for peppermint water, which they should have readily available, which disperses the air and is a total lifesaver if you’re feeling uncomfortable, without making you feel high as a kite.
You’ll be catheterised before your section, whichever type you have, for obvious reasons. They’ll want to take it out fairly quickly post-op to minimise the risk of infection. Once you’re free of it (and you’ve got the feeling back in your legs) you’ll have to get out of bed to go to the loo, where you’ll have to pee into a bedpan ontop of the loo so that they can check you’re peeing properly before they can send you home.
This will seem deeply unreasonable and you might hate them for making you do it.
…There is a reason for it though. As you’ve just had some fairly major surgery they want you to get up and about to stop blood clots, so, you know – they could be saving your life by making you get up to pee.
…And get your own breakfast while you’re at it.
Yep. They’ll make you get up to get your own brekkie too. For the same reason you have to get up to pee. You can recognise all the other c-section Mums on the ward because you’ll all be doing the same c-section shuffle to the breakfast cart.
5.) Homeward Bound
Any Mum will tell you that, whatever your birth experience, maternity wards are unavoidably hellish, mainly owing to the fact that it’s full of exhausted Mums and brand new squalling babies not yet adjusted to life on the outside.
So when they time comes that you’re ready to go home, getting the hell out of dodge is your number one concern. You can usually leave after 48 hours (24 if you choose to get ‘fast tracked’). However, when you start the whole process – getting showered, dressed, packing up all your shizzle and getting the baby ready, will probably bring home how f*cked up you really are. You’ll feel like you’re in absolute tatters.
It isn’t uncommon to have a bit of a wobble at this point.
You doubt whether you’re physically capable of getting home, let alone then having to look after this brand new tiny person you’ve made. Try not to fret, take as long as you need to get from A to B, once you’re home you’ll be flooded with relief, even if there is still a bit of trepidation in the air.
Don’t forget you’ll have a few visits from the community midwives over the next couple of weeks, and you That you can phone the Neonatal Ward or your local Health Visitor if you’re in need of advice. (You WILL be ok, I promise.)
Stitches can be bitches
My stitches popped after each of my c-sections to varying degrees, and whilst it can freak you out a bit, don’t panic. It’s pretty common and they can sort it out fairly easily.
That said, I’d always recommend having a pillow with you at all times during the first few weeks. Try and hold it against your tummy when you cough or laugh. It reduces the likelihood of them popping and it reduces the pain somehow too.
Try not to freak out the first time you see yourself naked
Yes. You will look like a hot mess, especially whilst you’ve still got bruises, swelling, stitches, dressings and butterfly strips all over your lower body. Just remember that you will feel normal(ish) again. It’s all about time, I’m afraid. Just concentrate on being comfortable and looking after yourself and bubba, and try not to stress about it.
6.) Parting Words
Nearly all c-section Mums I know had their cesareans out of necessity rather than by choice. It can throw up a veritable smorgasboard of negative feelings, from disappointment to inadequacy, and from depression to outright PTSD.
As someone who has run this gauntlet three times over, I would say this to any c-section Mum or Mum-to-be who is due to have their baby by section: Having a cesarean is no mean feat, recovery can feel like it takes forever, and you might feel cheated out of the birth you’d hoped for. However, you are every inch a Super Woman, whatever your birth experience.
The human body is a marvellous thing, and it’s powers of recuperation are phenomenal. Be proud of your own journey, and know that you will feel good again soon. Moreover, it will not affect your wonderful powers of motherhood.
You got this Mama. Everything’s going to be fine.
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